Whether you are looking for a cinnamon substitute because you've run out at home or need a substitute for a cinnamon allergy, the good news is you've got plenty of options! With a warm, sweet, and spicy flavor and an intense aroma that will make your mouth water, it's no wonder that cinnamon is one of the most popular spices in the world. And although it has a unique flavor, several spices in your pantry mimic its characteristics!
In this guide, I'll share what those cinnamon substitutes are and how to make the most of them in your sweet desserts and savory dishes.
- What is cinnamon?
- What does cinnamon taste like?
- What flavor is cinnamon similar to?
- What are the different types of cinnamon?
- Cinnamon stick vs. Ground cinnamon
- What is the best cinnamon substitute?
- 1. Nutmeg
- 2. Allspice
- 3. Cardamom
- 4. Ginger
- 5. Mace
- 6. Cloves
- 7. Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 8. Apple Pie Spice
- 9. Star Anise
- 10. Cinnamon Stick
- 11. Cinnamon Extract
- 12 Cinnamon Sugar
- 13. Spice Combinations
- So, which is the best cinnamon substitute?
- Best cinnamon substitute for baking
- What can I use to substitute cinnamon stick?
- Best cinnamon substitute in apple pie
- What can I use instead of cinnamon in banana bread?
- How to replace cinnamon in carrot cake?
- What can I replace cinnamon with in french toast?
- Cinnamon Substitute FAQs
- What can I use cinnamon for in baking?
- More Substitute Guides
- The BEST Cinnamon Substitute
What is cinnamon?
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice derived from the peeled and dried inner bark of trees within the Cinnamomum genus. It often adds a warm, sweet, and spicy flavor to various foods, including baked goods and desserts, cereals, snacks, hot beverages, and savory dishes.
You are more likely to find cinnamon in your grocery store grounded into powder or rolled into small rolls of bark (also known as cinnamon sticks). However, it is also available as an oil or extract.
What does cinnamon taste like?
Cinnamon has a warm yet unique and versatile flavor that can range from sweet to spicy depending on the type of cinnamon. Many would describe it as having a sweet, spicy, woody taste, with some citrusy notes and a pungent aroma.
Pure cinnamon has more aroma than it does flavor. Its taste is quite bland in its pure form and best used in savory dishes unless combined with sugar or another type of sweetener. When used in baking, cinnamon is almost always combined with sugar.
What flavor is cinnamon similar to?
Cinnamon has a unique and robust flavor profile, similar to other spices such as nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, cloves, and mace. For this reason, it is commonly used alongside or as a replacement for these spices in various recipes. When deciding on the best substitute for cinnamon powder, bear in mind the flavor profile of your dish and choose accordingly.
What are the different types of cinnamon?
While many only know one type of cinnamon, there are four main types: Ceylon, Cassia, Korintje, and Saigon.
Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) is commonly known as the "true cinnamon" and is also known as "Mexican cinnamon." Although its origins are from the South Asian island of Sri Lanka, you will primarily find it in Mexican and European kitchens. Ceylon cinnamon has a light brown appearance with multiple thin layers of inner tree bark. Its flavor is slightly bitter with subtle fruity and floral notes. It is best in milk-based recipes such as creams and custards and when cooking or baking with jams, fruit butter, and tomato sauces.
Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia), or Chinese cinnamon, is most commonly used in North America. As its name implies, it originates from China. Cassia cinnamon has a dark brown color and a single, thick, and hard layer carved from the tree's base. Its flavor is smooth, sweet, and warm, with spicy notes. It is best in basic recipes where the cinnamon blends with other flavors, such as sweet baked goods and desserts. Compared to Ceylon cinnamon, Cassia cinnamon is much more affordable and widely available in stores.
Korintje cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii) is a type of Cassia cinnamon grown in Indonesia and harvested like Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon. It has a smooth, woody, sweet flavor with hints of pepper and clove. Korintje cinnamon is best in sweet recipes such as baked goods and cocktails or savory dishes such as rice, curries, and chutney. When it comes to holiday dishes, Korintje cinnamon is the best choice.
Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi) is another type of Cassia cinnamon grown and harvested in Vietnam. It is harvested in the same manner as Korintje cinnamon but has a higher essential oil content, making its flavors much bolder. Because of its rich, spicy, and sweet flavors, it is best in recipes where cinnamon is the main star, such as cinnamon-flavored baked goods and pumpkin pie spice mix.
Cinnamon stick vs. Ground cinnamon
Only two things separate a cinnamon stick from ground cinnamon: The texture and the way you use them in recipes. As its name implies, ground cinnamon is dried inner tree bark ground into a fine powder. On the other hand, a cinnamon stick is the same dried inner tree park rolled and left as is. It is not uncommon to use ground cinnamon instead of a cinnamon stick in recipes and vice versa. Keep reading for how to use cinnamon sticks in place of ground cinnamon in your recipes!
What is the best cinnamon substitute?
When considering a cinnamon substitute, you will want to choose spices with a similar flavor profile. You will also want to consider what you will use it for, as only some spices work well in some recipes. Below are several spices that can serve as excellent cinnamon substitutes, depending on what you plan to make:
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
- Apple Pie Spice
- Star Anise
- Cinnamon Stick
- Cinnamon Extract
- Cinnamon Sugar
- Spice Combinations
Options 1-9 are the most suitable for cinnamon allergy as they do not contain cinnamon.
When it comes to baking, ground nutmeg is one of the best standalone cinnamon substitutes. Its similar warmth, sweet and spicy flavor, and deep aroma make it an excellent addition to both sweet and savory foods. It is particularly great as a substitute in baked goods, puddings, and beverages, as well as in sauces, stews, and with meats and potatoes.
Nutmeg has a much stronger taste, so when using nutmeg as a cinnamon substitute, you only need to use ½ teaspoon for each teaspoon of cinnamon initially called for in the recipe.
Allspice is another one of the top choices when choosing a standalone cinnamon substitute, especially in baked goods and desserts. It has a taste similar to cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, making it a good substitute for sweet bread, chocolate desserts, and pies. It is also a great substitute in savory dishes such as soups, stews, sauces, meats, and vegetables.
Because allspice has a strong flavor, it is recommended to only use ½ teaspoon for each teaspoon of cinnamon required in the recipe. Please not that unlike the name indicates, allspice is a standalone spice and not a combination of spices. Allspice also does not contain cinnamon!
Although cardamom has a different flavor profile than cinnamon, it is often used as a substitute because of its similar warmth, aroma, and unique sweet and earthy flavor. While cardamom is an acceptable cinnamon substitute in sweet recipes such as cakes, cookies, and glazes, it is an especially great substitute in savory sauces and Middle Eastern or Indian dishes.
In sweet and savory recipes, you can use cardamom as an equal cinnamon replacement so use it 1:1. Cinnamon is also at the top of the list for cardamom substitutes.
Ginger is a spice you can use as a cinnamon substitute in any form: fresh, dried, or ground. It has a sharp, sweet, and sour flavor, making it an excellent cinnamon alternative in sweet baked goods such as gingerbread cookies and cakes. It is also an acceptable cinnamon replacement in savory sauces, meats, and curries. In addition to being an excellent substitute in terms of flavor and aroma, it also packs nutritional benefits and is known to treat nausea, digestive issues, and the common cold!
When using ground ginger as a cinnamon substitute, you can make an equal 1:1 replacement. However, because of ginger's sharp and bold flavor and aroma, when using it in its fresh or dried form, it is recommended to start with a little and increase as necessary.
Although milder than cinnamon, mace has sweet, earthy, peppery, and pungy flavor qualities, making it an excellent cinnamon substitute. Mace is said to have an aroma profile to nutmeg and, when combined, make an even better substitute (more on this later)! Because of mace's spicy qualities, it is ideal in savory dishes such as veggies, sweet potatoes, and meat and potato dishes. However, it is also great in baked goods, sweet dishes, and beverages.
When substituting mace for cinnamon, it is best to start with ¼ of the amount called for in the recipe and then increase the amount to taste.
Like cinnamon, cloves have a sweet, earthy flavor profile with an intense and bold aroma. Although cloves have a much more potent taste than cinnamon, it is still an excellent cinnamon substitute in baked goods and desserts such as cakes, pies, and cookies. It is also an ideal alternative for beverages and savory dishes such as sauces, stews, meats, and curries.
Whether replacing ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks, you can replace them with ground cloves in a 1:1 ratio. If using whole cloves, use them in a 4:1 ratio.
7. Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pumpkin pie spice is a combination of the best standalone cinnamon substitutes. Cinnamon is the key ingredient in pumpkin pie spice, alongside nutmeg, ginger, clove, and allspice. As a cinnamon replacement, it will add a more intense aroma and sweet flavor to your recipes. It is ideal in desserts, baked goods, oatmeal, coffee, and savory dishes such as veggies and meats.
To use pumpkin pie spice as a cinnamon substitute, you can use equal amounts so 1:1.
8. Apple Pie Spice
Like pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice combines the best standalone spices that make excellent cinnamon substitutes. In fact, apple pie spice often includes cinnamon itself! Most apple pie spices combine cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Some also include cardamom and/or ginger to create the perfect blend of warm spices. It is ideal in sweet recipes such as apple pies, cakes, bread, and cookies, but you can also use it in curries and marinades.
Because it is a blend of potent spices, it is best to start with a 1:2 ratio or less (use a half teaspoon of apple pie spice for each teaspoon of cinnamon) and increase the amount as needed.
9. Star Anise
Aside from its aroma of licorice, star anise can work as a cinnamon substitute due to its warmth and sweet-spicy flavor. The flavor of star anise is said to be a combination of cinnamon and licorice, making it a great addition to sweet baked goods such as cookies and desserts, as well as in savory recipes such as soup.
Although not overwhelming, star anise is still intense in terms of flavor. Therefore, using only ¼ teaspoon of ground anise for each teaspoon of cinnamon is best.
10. Cinnamon Stick
If your recipe calls for ground cinnamon and you only have cinnamon sticks on hand, you're in luck. Since ground cinnamon is essentially a stick of cinnamon ground in a spice grinder, you can grind the stick (using a food processor or blender) into powder to create an equal replacement.
You might want to use slightly less as freshly grind cinnamon tends to have more aroma vs. store-bought ground cinnamon. However, if you have a cinnamon allergy, this would not be a suitable substitute.
11. Cinnamon Extract
Cinnamon extract is the liquid version of ground cinnamon and has the same sweet and nutty flavor and aroma. It is an excellent substitute for ground cinnamon in liquid-based recipes such as drinks, stews, and soups, as well as in creams and mousses.
However, the cinnamon extract is much more potent than ground cinnamon, so you will only need ¼ teaspoon or less extract to replace each teaspoon of ground cinnamon. It is important to note that cinnamon extract differs from cinnamon oil, so read the label carefully! Cinnamon extract is also not suitable if you have a cinnamon allergy.
12 Cinnamon Sugar
If you have cinnamon sugar in your pantry, you can easily swap it in as a cinnamon substitute. Cinnamon sugar is a combination of cinnamon and granulated sugar, giving your recipes a sweeter, more flavorful taste. It is an incredibly excellent addition to sweet dessert recipes.
To use cinnamon sugar as a substitute, replace each teaspoon of ground cinnamon with four teaspoons of cinnamon sugar. You may need to adjust the sugar quantities in your recipe to maintain the same sweetness. Since it contains cinnamon, it is not a suitable substitute for cinnamon allergies.
13. Spice Combinations
Nutmeg + Clove: Use ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of ground clove in place of each teaspoon of ground cinnamon for savory recipes such as spices and meats.
Clove + Ginger: Use ½ teaspoon of ground cloves and ½ teaspoon of ground ginger in place of each teaspoon of ground cinnamon for baked goods such as cookies and cakes or savory recipes such as sauces and stews.
Nutmeg + Mace: Use ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg and ½ teaspoon of ground mace in place of each teaspoon of ground cinnamon for sweeter dishes such as desserts, drinks, and sweet potatoes.
So, which is the best cinnamon substitute?
If you are not replacing cinnamon for allergy reasons, the best cinnamon substitute must be grinding cinnamon stick yourself. It has the same taste, in fact, even more aromatic.
When it comes to some other cinnamon substitutes, there is no doubt that nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and ginger are among the top choices due to their similar texture, flavor, and aroma profiles. However, some combinations (such as nutmeg and mace) go together so well that you may not even notice the difference!
At the end of the day, the "best" substitute truly depends on the dish you are making, as some replacements may do a better job at enhancing specific recipes than others, as I explain in the following.
Best cinnamon substitute for baking
In baking, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves are usually must-have combinations alongside cinnamon. Therefore, they are the best cinnamon substitutes due to their similar tastes and smells. Other options would be apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice, both of which are a delicious combination of the above standalone spices.
What can I use to substitute cinnamon stick?
If your recipe calls for cinnamon sticks (also sometimes called whole cinnamon) and you only have ground cinnamon, you can substitute ½-1 teaspoon of powder for each stick. When you substitute ground cinnamon for stick, it is best to taste and adjust according to the meal you are making.
Best cinnamon substitute in apple pie
Apple pie spice is undoubtedly the best cinnamon substitute for apple pie since cinnamon is one of the key ingredients. Other suitable replacements include allspice and nutmeg, which are also ingredients in apple pie spice.
What can I use instead of cinnamon in banana bread?
If using cinnamon to add additional flavor and warmth (like I do in my banana bread recipe) to your banana bread, you can substitute other warming spices such as nutmeg, cardamon, allspice, and cloves.
How to replace cinnamon in carrot cake?
To replace cinnamon in carrot cakes, I recommend a combination of nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, as I do in my mini carrot cake recipe. My DIY pumpkin pie spice is also an excellent cinnamon alternative for carrot cake!
What can I replace cinnamon with in french toast?
There are many spices you can use to replace cinnamon in french toast. Nutmeg is among the top choices, but you can also use sweet spices that contain cinnamon, such as pumpkin spice or apple pie spice, or a combination of spices similar to cinnamon, such as cloves + ginger.
Cinnamon Substitute FAQs
Cinnamon is packed with health benefits and has been known for its medicinal properties. It is rich in antioxidants, and research has shown that it may aid in controlling blood sugar, reducing inflammation, and helping to protect against heart disease.
Unlike its name implies, allspice is a standalone spice from the dried unripe berry of the Pimenta dioica tree. Although its flavor is similar to cinnamon's, it does not contain cinnamon itself. Please note that this is not medical advice and that you should discuss any allergy concerns with your physician.
Ginger has historically been one of the most affordable spices and substitutes for cinnamon. However, this can vary based on where and when you buy it.
Cinnamon is adding delicious flavor as well as a hint of sweetness. However, it is not as sweet as sugar and is best when combined with another sweetener.
Brown sugar is commonly used as a substitute for cinnamon sugar as opposed to ground cinnamon. However, because it has a sweet, molasses-like flavor and a moist texture, I don't recommend using it as a ground cinnamon replacement, as it will change your recipe's flavor profile and texture.
What can I use cinnamon for in baking?
Ready to spice things up in your oven? Below are several recipes that call for cinnamon or that you can make with cinnamon in place of other spices:
More Substitute Guides
The BEST Cinnamon Substitute
Best cinnamon substitute
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon stick grind cinnamon stick yourself into powder
- ½ teaspoon Nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon Allspice
- 1 teaspoon Cardamom
- 1 teaspoon Ginger
- To replace 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon use one of the above options
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
- Apple Pie Spice
- Star Anise
- Cinnamon Stick
- Cinnamon Extract
- Cinnamon Sugar
- Spice Combination
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